As much as these air conditioners are cooling down your body on scorching hot days, they are worsening the environment around you.
Why Is Air Conditioning An Environmental Enemy
Depletes The Ozone Layer
Air conditioners use refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), especially old ones. They are known major substances that deplete the ozone layer and make global warming more prominent.
Although these substances were phased out in newer units and are being replaced by alternatives like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), they are still potent greenhouse gases.
Consumes A Lot Of Energy
The compressor, which is known as the heart of AC units, requires a significant amount of energy to operate. By significant, I mean on average 2,000 kilowatt-hours per year which is a lot. It has to pump refrigerant through the system when you want to decrease the temperature or absorb heat when you do a vice versa.
It gets worse when the unit is disproportional to the space it is being used in. The compressor takes the cooling load in to decide how much it has to work to achieve the desired temperature. If by any chance you are trying to cool down a space that is above the unit’s capacity, the compressor will push harder consuming even more electricity.
Contributes To Urban Heat Island
If you ever wondered why urban areas are warmer than rural areas, there you have it.
AC units release greenhouse gases which get trapped in the atmosphere. One AC unit wouldn’t make a difference but put the emissions of hundreds and thousands of buildings in a city altogether. The result is called Urban Heat Island (UHI).
The architecture of modern cities incorporates plenty of heat-absorbing surfaces like concrete and asphalt which is also responsible for trapping the gasses even more so.
Pollutes Indoor Air When Unmaintained
Air conditioners require regular servicing and maintenance. Not only that it increases the lifespan of the device, but it also keeps the unit from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and germs.
It collects dust and debris while recirculating the air. That dust in combination with in-house moisture and heat can create germs and spread throughout your house.
What To Replace Traditional Air Conditioning With
There are many ways you can go about replacing traditional air conditioning with something environmentally friendly:
- Natural ventilation: Create enough windows and form a natural cross-ventilation system.
- Shading: Use shading devices like awnings and screens which can block sun rays.
- Thermal mass: Incorporate high-density and high-thermal-mass materials like concrete, and brick in your house design.
- Green roofs and walls: Cover roofs and walls with vegetative layers so that your house can reduce stormwater runoff.
- Insulation: Create good insulation in your doors and windows that helps contain the room temperature.
But there is a problem. None of the above-mentioned actions can be adopted that easily, or at least not without modifying your building.
An easily adaptable and eco-friendly alternative to an AC unit is an evaporative cooler, aka swamp cooler which uses normal water instead of chemical refrigerants to keep your house cool.
No, you don’t have to trash your entire air-con system but add one swamp cooler and see if it makes you use your air conditioner less.
We like the portable evaporative cooler from Hessaire and can recommend it for regions where the relative humidity is < 50%. It can also be used outdoors like on a patio or a terrace for a nice cold blow of air.
Energy-wise, it uses 0.2-0.5 kilowatts-hour. To give you a number to compare this with, a central air conditioner consumes 3.5 kilowatts-hour on average.
How Is Evaporative Cooling Eco-Friendly
Uses Natural Process
Evaporative cooling, as the name says, evaporates water to draw in heat from the surrounding air and circulates the cooled-down air back into the environment. The evaporation happens on the moistened filter pads inside the cooler.
It does not use any chemicals to output cool air which makes the whole process natural and as eco-friendly as possible. The filters can be washed and reused in most swamp coolers leaving minimal room for waste.
Requires Less Energy
Air conditioners need a decent amount of electricity to run a compressor and circulate refrigerant. Whereas a couple of fans and a water pump are everything an evaporative cooler has and require very little electricity.
It is estimated that a swamp cooler uses 2-3 times less energy than an air conditioning unit to cool the same space.
Does Not Affect Ozone
Evaporative cooling does not use ozone-depleting refrigerants or chemicals but rather a simple water flow and filter pad evaporation mechanism. It does not release harmful substances into the air leaving the ozone layer unaffected.
Also that there is less electricity being used, which reduces the demand for energy and decreases the emission of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
Improves Indoor Air Quality
Swamp coolers are taking air quality control in their own hand on the side of cooling. When hot and dry air is drawn into the system for circulation, the filter stops dust and debris from going out.
Dry air is then humidified and returned back into the surrounding environment giving a feeling of comfort. Some coolers are equipped with specialized air purification systems such as HEPA filters which can go the extra mile.
Contributes To Sustainability
A switch from a traditional air conditioning unit to an evaporative cooling unit can overall reduce the demand for energy and decrease carbon emission which takes place in the energy production chain.
They are in general more durable, and inexpensive to maintain and some filters can be washed and reused more than one time. Above all, it does not emit harmful byproducts causing problems to our climate.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Swamp Coolers
Not Suitable For Humid Regions
The main reason why evaporative cooling has not been adopted everywhere is that it does not work everywhere on the globe. The climate has to be dry and arid.
There is a specific requirement in place. The humidity in your place should not be over 60% relatively. The lesser the better. Because these machines cool air by humidification and if it is already too saturated, the cooling effect won’t be noticeable.
Requires Regular Maintenance
Although evaporative coolers are inexpensive to maintain, they require more frequent maintenance being water and filter based.
You can get by with air conditioning units by calling the service company once or twice in a calendar year. But with swamp coolers, you have to regularly wash or change the filter, refill the water tank and push the whole unit around as needed.
It can be a subjective matter but evaporative coolers make noise when it runs the fan or pumps water. I mean so does an air conditioner.
The difference lies in the placement. Cooler is often placed in close proximity to where you are sitting to enjoy the air coming out of it but air-cons are always mounted away on the wall or the ceiling making you think it is not producing noise.
Not As Effective As An Air Conditioner
It would be hiding important information away if I did not tell you evaporative coolers are not as effective as air conditioners in terms of cooling capability. Also, air conditioners are faster at cooling the same space.
The effectiveness of evaporative aka swamp coolers completely depends on the humidity of the air. If it is too humid, it is too saturated for the cooler to do any magic. Whereas, air conditioning is unaffected by any outside circumstances.